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Respondent Centred Surveys; Stop, Listen and then Design.

Throughout the survey design industry, we are experiencing a decline in response rates alongside the demand for push-to-web mixed-mode completion. The data collection world is changing and to respond to these challenges, it is necessary to combine established and innovative survey design methodologies. We must move away from the traditional approaches that hinder us from achieving our goals, such as designing surveys at desk or in the boardroom. Instead, we need to start putting the respondent first and letting them drive survey design. This is Respondent Centred Design and it is achieved by heavily involving respondents in research to establish their survey participation needs and subsequently building to meet them. Only then can we develop a survey with low burden and high-quality data. This talk will explain why this shift in our design focus and practices is critical to the creation of successful surveys. It introduces and explains an innovative methodological approach called ‘Respondent Centred Design’ which is showcased in the speakers new book, ‘Respondent Centred Surveys; Stop, Listen and then Design’. The talk demonstrates its application to survey development through use of frameworks and case studies from the transformation of the UK’s Labour Force Survey from the Office for National Statistics.

Gender Economics:  Dead-ends and New Opportunities.

The economics literature on gender has expanded considerably in recent years, fueled in part by new sources of data, including from experimental studies of gender differences in preferences and other traits.  At the same time, economists have been developing more realistic models of psychological and social influences on choice and the evolution of culture and social norms.  Despite these innovations much of the economics of gender has been left behind, and still employs a reductive framing in which gender gaps in economic outcomes are either due to discrimination or to “choices.”  I suggest here that the persistence of this approach is due to several distinctive economic habits of mind—strong priors driven by market bias and gender essentialism, a perspective that views the default economic agent as male, and an oft-noted tendency to avoid complex problems in favor of those that can be modeled simply.  I also suggest some paths forward.



The impacts of Universal Free School Meal schemes in England

The Department for Education’s Universal Infant Free School Meal (FSM) scheme has since 2014 has provided a free school lunch to all children in the first three years of state-funded primary school in England. Scrapping, retaining or extending this £600m/year scheme are all politically live options within the next electoral cycle. Some Local Authorities provided Universal FSM to infant or older children long before this, and others provide Universal FSM throughout primary school. We use difference-in-difference methods to evaluate the effect of Universal FSM schemes in these Local Authorities since 2004, on children’s bodyweight outcomes and academic performance at age 11. We use school-level data from the National Child Measurement Programme and child-level data from the National Pupil Database. Results have not yet undergone disclosure by the data owners to enable us to trail them in this abstract, but the talk will include a lot of tests of the identifying assumption of parallel counterfactual trends holds, and adjustments to the standard two-way fixed effects difference-in-difference models to account for variation in treatment timing, lagged effects and heterogeneity of effects by duration of exposure.

The electoral impact of a large return migration shock in a nascent democracy.

In this paper, we study the causal impact of a large and unexpected repatriation episode on election outcomes during a democratic transition that was characterized by severe political and economic instability. We analyse how the forced return of close to half a million settlers from Portuguese speaking African countries, motivated by the eruption of civil wars in these territories, influenced election outcomes after the 1974 Carnation Revolution in Portugal. We apply a difference-in-differences with a continuous treatment assignment based on the share of repatriates per municipality. To deal with potential endogeneity problems, we instrument this with two shift-share variables levering on very detailed census data covering the universe of repatriates and including information on their regions of birth. We find that repatriates significantly increased voting for right-wing parties in the ten years after the Revolution.

Intrahousehold income inequality and the gender income gap after union dissolution: a comparative study of European countries

Union dissolution is a widespread lifecourse event that can trigger a substantial income shock to individuals experiencing it, especially if there are dependent children in the family. The large literature shows that after separation women experience a sharper decline in income and a greater poverty risk, while men, in contrast, may even improve their standard of living. This paper is aimed at assessing the impact of intrahousehold inequality on financial consequences of union dissolution for men and women and the role of European tax-benefit systems in moderating the adverse impacts of union dissolution on gender income inequality. Our methodological approach consists of using microsimulation techniques in combination with the survey data. To capture the pre-separation income situation of men and women, we construct measures of individual income assuming minimum income pooling in addition to the conventional complete pooling and equal sharing approach. In order to assess the impact of separation on gender inequality, we create a counterfactual scenario by splitting all heterosexual couples in our data and simulating all benefits and taxes that each individual would be entitled to if they lived in separate households. We sensitivity test the results by assuming different scenarios of sharing custody of the dependent children. Our results show that the assumptions about income pooling within household have significant impacts on the assessment of gender income inequality after a union dissolution.

How not to Assign Students to Schools

How should students be assigned to schools? Two mechanisms have been suggested and implemented around the world: deferred acceptance (DA) and top trading cycles (TTC). These two mechanisms are widely considered excellent choices owing to their outstanding stability and incentive properties. We show theoretically and empirically that both mechanisms perform poorly with regards to two key desiderata such as efficiency and equality. In contrast, the rank-minimizing mechanism is significantly more efficient and egalitarian. It is also Pareto optimal for the students, unlike DA, and generates less justified envy than TTC.

The Returns to College(s):Relative Value-Added and Match Effects in Higher Education

Students who attend different colleges in the U.S. end up with vastly different economic outcomes. We study the role of relative value-added across colleges within student choice sets in producing these outcome disparities. Linking administrative high school records, college applications, admissions decisions, enrollment spells, degree completions, and quarterly earnings spanning the Texas population, we identify relative college value-added by comparing the outcomes of students who apply to and are admitted by the same set of institutions, as this approach strikingly balances observable student potential across college treatments and renders our extensive set of covariates irrelevant as controls. Methodologically, we develop a framework for identifying and interpreting value-added under varying assumptions about match effects and sorting gains, generalizing the constant treatment effects assumption typically employed in the value-added literature. Empirically, we estimate a relatively tight, though non-degenerate, distribution of relative value-added across the wide diversity of Texas public universities. Selectivity poorly predicts value-added within student choice sets: a fleeting selectivity earnings premium fades to zero after a few years in the labor market, and more selective colleges tend to have lower value-added on STEM degree completion. Non-peer college inputs like instructional spending more strongly predict value-added, especially conditional on selectivity. Educational impacts predict labor market impacts: colleges with larger earnings value-added also tend to be colleges that boost persistence, BA completion, and STEM degrees along the way. Finally, we probe the potential for (mis)match effects by allowing each college’s relative value-added to vary flexibly by student characteristics. At first glance, Black students appear to face small negative returns to choosing more selective colleges, but this pattern of modest “mismatch” is entirely driven by the availability of two large historically Black universities with low selectivity but above-average value-added. Across the non-HBCUs, Black students face similar returns to selectivity, and indistinguishable value-added schedules more generally, compared to their peers from other backgrounds.

Maternal Labor Supply: Perceived Returns, Constraints, and Social Norms.

We design a new survey to elicit quantifiable, interpersonally comparable beliefs about pecuniary and non-pecuniary benefits and costs to maternal labor supply decisions, to study how beliefs vary across and within different groups in the population and to analyze how those beliefs relate to choices. In terms of pecuniary returns, mothers’ (and fathers’) later-life earnings are perceived to increase the more hours the mother works while her child is young. Similarly, respondents perceive higher non-pecuniary returns to children’s cognitive and non-cognitive skills the more hours a mother works and the more time her child spends in childcare. Family outcomes on the other hand, such as the quality of the mother-child relationship and child satisfaction, are perceived to be the highest when the mother works part-time, which is also the option most respondents believe their friends and family would like them to choose. There is a large heterogeneity in the perceived availability of full-time childcare and relaxing constraints could substantially increase maternal labor supply. Importantly, it is perceptions about the non-pecuniary returns to maternal labor supply as well as beliefs about the opinions of friends and family that are found to be strong predictors of maternal labor supply decisions, while beliefs about labor market returns are not.

The Use of Advanced Social Media Targeting Methodology During Recruitment of Hard-to-Reach Audiences

One of the major benefits of social media ad-based survey recruitment is the use of various types of data to target ads to users of these platforms. To target users of social media, researchers can use the basic demographic and geographic that social media platforms currently provide, or they can use enhanced data that can be embedded within the social media platforms supplied by third party providers based on external data sources, e.g., historical purchase data. We will examine whether and how much this enhanced data can impact ad based social media recruitment capabilities to reach niche and hard-to-reach audiences. To investigate the targeting efficiency, quality, and cost differences among these two approaches that can be used to target audiences within social media platforms, NORC piloted a strategic initiative research study in 2020. A web survey was constructed using existing items from national surveys on individual’s health and online habits, as well as new items related to life changes during the pandemic. Two main audience groups that are generally hard to recruit through probability-based studies were targeted – young adults, ages 18-24, and people with low education (defined as anyone who has completed high school as the highest level of education or lower). Five sets of tailored ads with unique URLs that linked to a web-based survey were designed and launched via Facebook and Instagram. Two sets used basic targeting to recruit the sample and the other three used the enhanced targeting. This seminar will present the design of the study, our approach to the ads and targeting, and what we learned through our examination of the differences between the samples obtained from basic and advanced targeting on the dimensions of recruited sample composition, survey estimates, and recruitment costs.

The Race between Mortality and Morbidity: Implications for the Global Distribution of Health

Increasing life expectancy (LE) and reducing its variability across countries (the so-called “International Health Inequality”, IHI) are progressively prominent goals in global development agendas. Yet, LE is composed of two components: the number of years individuals are expected to live in “good” and in “less-than-good” health. While the first component (“Health-adjusted life expectancy”, HALE) is normatively desirable, the second one (“Unhealthy life expectancy”, UHLE, or LE – HALE) is highly controversial because of the high personal, social, and economic costs often associated with the presence of disease or disability – an issue that can muddy the waters when interpreting global health dynamics and calls for new conceptual approaches. Here we document how the evolution of HALE and UHLE between 1990 and 2019 have shaped (i) the trends and composition of LE both at the country, regional and the global levels, and (ii) the levels and trends in IHI. Our findings indicate that UHLE has tended to grow at a faster rate than HALE, thus leading to an expansion of morbidity in 75% of world countries. IHI increases until year 2000 and starts declining from that year onwards – a trend that is mostly determined by the evolution of HALE across countries. While still minoritarian, UHLE is a non-negligible and increasingly relevant factor determining the levels of international health inequality (IHI). These findings and ideas are useful to understand the role that the healthy and unhealthy components of LE are playing in contemporary health dynamics and for the elaboration of policies aiming at tackling health inequalities both across and within countries.

Single Parents Competing in a Dual-Earner Society. Leveling the Playing Field

Ongoing debates about high and rising inequality largely ignore aspects of gender and family diversity. The rise of women’s earnings, in part supported by the dual-earner / dual caregiver model, is known to have reduce income inequality between households – at least when it comes to couples. This paper will examine what the impact of the rise of the dual-earner family model has been on the position in the income distribution of various household types – including relative income position of single adults, single parents and “breadwinner couples”. While often the dual-earner model is supported by work-family reconciliation policies such as public childcare, (a.) countries differ regarding the amount of public childcare investment they provide, and (b.) dual-earner couples differ with regards to their joint working hours and occupational homogamy. These differences are theorized and empirically accounted for.

Using pooled cross-sectional data from the LIS Database, that allows following 20 OECD countries from 1984 to 2010, this study tests two contrasting hypotheses. The competition hypothesis reads that the rise of dual-earner households poses an insurmountable competition for a position in the income distribution to single earners (single adults, single parents and single-earner couples), thus increasing the sorting of household types across the income distribution. The spillover hypothesis is based on the notion that the rise of the dual-earner model represents an adaptation of society to the changing economic roles of women. The rise of the dual-earner/dual caregiver model of family policy (e.g. work-family reconciliation policies), decreasing the size of the gender pay gap, and longer work histories before becoming single (parent) contribute to the economic position of singles – and in particular single mothers. Understood this way, the rise of the dual-earner model, may be expected to have strengthened the economic position of those who need it the most – households with only a single earner – thus integrating various household types across the income distribution. The results show that in societies with a larger share of dual-earner families, single parents and singles are at a substantial economic disadvantage, both in terms of their position in the income distribution and in terms of being at-risk-of-poverty (AROP). Only in the context of (a.) above-average investments in public childcare, and (b.) above-average levels of minimum-income protection was the disadvantage of the dual-earner society for single parents and singles ameliorated. These findings help explain, for instance, the exceptionally high poverty rates of single parents in the United States, a society with a high rate of dual earners, with little support in terms of public childcare and minimum income protection.

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